A Predator drone previously used for patrolling North Dakota’s northern border is now being used to patrol at least a 900 mile section of the Canada-US border from the “vicinity” of Spokane, Washington to the Lake-of-the-Woods region of Minnesota.
On its website, the US Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP) states that the Predator B drone completed its first mission along the stretch of border on January 20, thanks to the utilization of the expanded certificate of authorization (COA) issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) just prior to the drone’s flight:
According to the CBP website:
“With cooperation and assistance from the FAA, the newly issued COA expands CBP’s approved airspace along the northern border by nearly 900 miles and allows CBP Predator-B aircraft to fly from the Lake-of-the-Woods region of Minnesota to the vicinity of Spokane, Washington."
According to CBP, the drone will be used to increase the capacity of the US Department of Homeland Security’s unmanned aircraft missions in combating counterterrorism, counternarcotics and border security procedures.
In addition to the above-mentioned capacities, the CBP site states its additional responsibilities include preventing terrorists and terrorist weapons from reaching the US and at the same time “enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.”
CBP does not state where the drone’s flights will originate or terminate from, but Government Security News reports two drones have been operating from Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota since 2009.
Last summer, the Department of Homeland Security announced a Predator drone would begin searching the Texas-Mexico border on September 1. That drone’s operating base has been Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Additionally, KVUE News reported last week that the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)revealed it had used a drone in conducting a drug bust just northwest of Austin, Texas. According to KVUE, DPS purchased four small drones in 2008, using them until November 2009 when they are reported to have been grounded by the FAA over technical issues.
The increased use of drones in America’s airspace continues to raise questions over their legality and what their actual purposes are. In 2007, the Houston Police Department was forced to reveal a secret site north of Houston being used for drone testing when Local 2 News aired footage of the testing.